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U.N. official slams 'serious failings' of legal, prison system.

Summary: High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Tuesday called for an independent investigation into the death of detainee Hassan al-Dika

BEIRUT: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Tuesday called for an independent investigation into the death of detainee Hassan al-Dika, who died Saturday from injuries allegedly sustained through torture. A statement from Bachelet's office (OHCHR) said that Dika's death had occurred "despite numerous interventions by U.N. entities ... with the Lebanese authorities" after he was allegedly tortured following his November 2018 arrest.

"The tragic death of Hassan al-Dika highlights what appears to be a number of very serious failings in Lebanon's legal and prison systems," Bachelet said.

She added that "the country's own laws seem to have been ignored."

In 2017, Lebanon passed an anti-torture law. But the body supposed to oversee its implementation remains inactive, despite the fact that allegations of torture within the judicial and security apparatus are common. The OHCHR statement called on the Lebanese authorities to allocate resources to the body, the National Commission for Human Rights.

Justice Minister Albert Serhan and Interior Minister Raya El Hassan Sunday issued statements of regret, with Hassan saying her ministry had sent a report to the OHCHR over the torture allegations.

The OHCHR statement said that three independent U.N. experts had sent a letter on Jan. 25 to the Lebanese government outlining their concerns of Dika's alleged ill-treatment and deprivation of medical care.

It said the failure to launch an investigation into torture allegations appeared to be "a clear contravention" of Article 5 of Lebanon's anti-torture law.

Dika, who was in his 40s, was arrested in November 2018 on drug-related charges. He died Saturday, May 11, after suffering severe pain in his back and paralysis of his left leg, which his father, Toufic Dika, alleged had resulted from torture by the Internal Security Forces' Information Branch.

The ISF released a counterclaim Sunday to the torture allegations, claiming that a recorded conversation between Toufic Dika and a doctor showed the pair agreeing to draw up a false medical report saying his son had been tortured.

It also said that Dika had not made complaints of torture when he had appeared before the first investigative judge.

Toufic Dika said during a news conference Monday that Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Ghada Aoun had failed to appoint a doctor to examine his son. He had filed two lawsuits, which he has claimed were not followed up on by Aoun or Mount Lebanon First Investigative Judge Nicolas Mansour in order to "cover" the perpetrators.

Both Aoun and Mansour have denied Dika's claim that they deliberately chose not to take on the case, instead trading accusations that the other had held up the judicial process.

Aoun said in a statement Monday that she had in fact appointed a medical committee to examine Dika and ensured he had been taken to hospital.

The state prosecution has opened an investigation into Dika's death, a source close to the investigation told The Daily Star Monday.

Human Rights Watch Monday also called for an impartial investigation into the death, saying that "Lebanese officials never looked into Hassan al-Dika's allegations of torture and ill-treatment."

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:May 15, 2019
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